1.5 - History of Rome, The Papal States II

Aerial view of the city centre of Rome -

Rome, the Eternal City, the Head of the World, is one of the cradles of "western civilisation", and a city who has lived the last two thousand and five hundred years as a major player in the political, religious and cultural domain. Each century and each event has left traces still visible in the city, its buildings and its inhabitants, creating an unique environment that can be seen in only few other places in the world.


This is not the place to write about the history of this city, because too many books have been written by much more competent people and because this is a website about tourism, but a short summary is necessary.

The Papal States XIV-XX AD. In the Fourteenth century the world started to change very fast, once again. In the east the Ottoman Turks destroyed wat was left of the Byzantine Empire (the eastern part of the Roman empire which survived the barbarian invasions) continuing a war of conquest in the Mediterranean and in the Balkans. In the west Spain and Portugal started to enjoy the fruits of oceanic trades and discoveries and in northern Europe a contestation movement started to spread. And Italy was being changed forever by the movement of the Renaissance. The Papacy was a magnet for artists poets and philosophers and after that the city was sacked in 1527, the efforts to improve it were multiplied. In the private courts of the nobility and the ambassadars the Baroque, a new style started to take shape. Artists such as MichelangeloRaffaelloBerniniBorromini and Caravaggio were active in Rome in this period contributing along with many others to create the city that we can see today. The Basilicae of St Peter and St John, as almost avery other church and palace of the city have been rebuilt or restiled in this period, Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sixtine Chapel and Raffaello the rooms of the Vatican Palace. Bernini and Borromini dotted the city with their architectures and sculptures and Caravaggio painted for the nobility and the religious orders.  On the other side the papacy, an absolutistic theocratic government, was keeping an even thighter control on the people and the intellectuals that could undermine the basis of its power. This was the period when it was possible to represent naked women or pagan gods in the Vatican, but also to be burned alive for questioning the theological truth of the Curia.

Bernini's Extasis of St Theresa, in the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria
Borromini's St Ivo alla Sapienza. La Sapienza is the first university of Rome, founded in  1303
Michelangelo's Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel
Michelangelo's paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel
Raphael's The School of Athens, in the Vatican Palace
Caravaggio's The Inspiration of Saint Matthew in the church of St Luigi dei Francesi, with other works of the artist

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